Obama made the comparison during a speech about the deal on Wednesday, saying that Iranian hard-liners chanting "death to America" and the Republican caucus were "making common cause" by refusing to support the Iran nuclear deal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called on Obama to tone down his rhetoric on Thursday.
“Rather than this kind of crass political rhetoric, we ought to treat this issue with the dignity it deserves,” McConnell said at a news conference on Thursday. “I wish he would tone down the rhetoric, and let’s talk about the facts."
Asked about the reaction to his comments, Obama said that the comparison was accurate.
"What I said is absolutely true factually. The truth of the matter is, inside of Iran, the people most opposed to the deal are the Revolutionary Guard, the Quds force, hard-liners who are implacably opposed to any cooperation with the international community," Obama said in an interview that will air on "Fareed Zakaria GPS" on Sunday. "The reason that Mitch McConnell, and the rest of the folks in his caucus who opposed this, jumped out and opposed this before they even read it, before it was even posted, is reflective of an ideological commitment not to get a deal done. In that sense they do have much more in common with the hardliners who are much more satisfied with the status quo."
The Obama administration has been aggressively selling the deal to Congress, which is reviewing the agreement. The deal, negotiated with five other countries and Iran, would require Iran to drastically downsize its nuclear capability in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. Critics say the deal does not go far enough to prevent Iran from developing a weapon and that Iran will use money from lifted sanctions to fund terrorist organizations. They have called for reimposing harsher sanctions in favor of getting a better deal -- something that the Obama administration has called a "fantasy."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly opposes the deal and has warned that it will allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon.
Obama reaffirmed the close relationship between the U.S. and Israel, but told Zakaria that he didn't recall a "similar example" of when the foreign head of state interjected in American politics.
Several Democratic senators have come out in support of the deal this week, but Obama needs at least 34 Senate votes to sustain a presidential veto should Congress pass legislation blocking the deal. The path to getting those votes was complicated on Thursday when Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), one of the most influential Democrats, said that he would not support the deal.
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